Another night at home, alone, contemplating the purpose of life. The willingness for the battle to survive had become too tiring. Too familiar. Routine, even. This time round it wasn’t simply going to pass, not like times in the distant past. The intensification of these feelings in recent months had become emotionally paralysing.
It was only a few days before that I had been discharged from a local psychiatric hospital. I had spent three long weeks there, until the last few days when it went sour. I was struggling to handle the chaos. I had thought the chaos of being in the hospital was the problem, but it was actually ultimately the chaos of my own mind. The initial period of being in hospital offered a brief escape. Like being on holiday from life, I guess. However, like any holiday, it had to end.
I started rebelling: drinking on leave and not returning at agreed times. I didn’t like sticking to the rules. I couldn’t even be sure what had prompted my rebellious behaviour. It was my inner chaos manifesting its ugly head that I dressed up by saying what I thought they wanted me to say. After all, surely if you can convince the professionals that you’re fine, you can convince yourself you’re fine?
On reflection, it was my way of communicating that I wasn’t able to directly communicate how I felt. “Sam isn’t engaging in the agreed care plan,” “he’s sabotaging his recovery by drinking and staying off grounds,” and “hospital wasn’t where he needed to be in the first place,” were just a few flippant comments said in ward rounds. Because of my behaviour, I was discharged, instantly. It was a punishment discharge and I felt like I was back to square one. But with only myself to blame, I felt I had no other option but to take my own life.
One week later, I set out to do it. No hesitation. Fortunately, my attempt was unsuccessful. Thankfully, I had raised the alarm with friends prior to my actions and they called the paramedics.
Waking up in the hospital the next morning, I was terrified. I had never felt so ill. And yet, I did this. It wasn’t a freak or unfortunate accident, I was totally to blame.
After many hours of treatment, I was seen by the hospital mental health liaison team. I was discharged after an obligatory chat and that was it. Back home again. Back in the same place. Still at risk. I didn’t feel I could trust myself, and nor could anyone else around me. And who could blame them?
Luckily, the home treatment team supported me in being readmitted. But the nearest bed was in Manchester, over 200 miles away from where I’m based in Brighton. Then just 48 hours after arriving, I was transferred to my local psychiatric hospital with only an hour’s warning, travelling overnight with little time to tell friends and family about the sudden change of plan.
My situation was not unusual due to the usual bed shortages, prioritising of patients under section and what it really comes down to: funding. I had just started to stabilise when I was transferred, which was far from helpful for my recovery. It was enormously detrimental to my decreasing faith in the system.
Chaos equals chaos, and that’s never any good for any mental health patient, regardless whether they have capacity or not. The NHS is clearly on its knees due to austerity measures, but it doesn’t justify the lack of communication and transparency I, and other patients like me, have experienced. Patients who are mentally ill cannot be moved from hospital to hospital like circus animals. They are in care for a reason, primarily due to their vulnerability.
My journey is far from over and I have a long path to recovery ahead of me. My case is far from unique, but luckily for me, I am somewhere safe and that’s what matters.
Most importantly, I’m here to tell the tale, and in a position to use my experiences to help support changes to the system that are seriously and dangerously long overdue.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.